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Outsiders vs. Insiders: Bad Democrat advice plus no spine equals no wins for hapless GOP

It reveals a lot about a person when you see who he or she goes to for advice.

Some people go to their spouse in times of trial; others might try their parents, family members, trusted friends or under the right circumstances, maybe even their pastor or priest. If you’re a politician it only makes sense Trump tweetyou’d seek out the ideological soulmates in your own party or when desperate, go have a chat with the leadership.

But if you’re Senator John McCain, apparently you hunt for all your old Senate Democrat pals for direction and grounding. Daniel Chaitin of the Washington Examiner reported earlier this week, “Sen. John McCain was one of three Republicans who helped shoot down the ‘skinny’ repeal of Obamacare early Friday morning, and two retired D.C. politicians reportedly helped talk him into the ‘no’ vote.

“Former Vice President Joe Biden and former Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., both pressed McCain to oppose Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's efforts to advance a plan that ultimately aimed to repeal and replace portions of Obamacare, according to a Washington Post report.

“Biden's discussion with McCain in particular was described as an emotional one as his son, Beau, passed away in 2015 due to the same aggressive brain cancer that McCain recently was diagnosed with.”

No one with a heart would fault Biden for consulting with old buddy McCain on the sensitive issue of brain cancer, but if the discussion suddenly switched to something related to the current strife over Obamacare, McCain should have figured the former Obama vice president would try and talk him out of voting to change it. Ditto for Lieberman who became a media darling because of his “bipartisan,” congenial nature during his years in the upper chamber; but on the subject of growing the government Lieberman is and always was a dedicated liberal.

You may recall Lieberman was essentially drummed out of the Democrat party due to his support for George W. Bush and the neocons’ Iraq War, but that doesn’t mean the former Connecticut senator was “Republican” in any other way. McCain reportedly seriously considered adding Lieberman to the GOP ticket in 2008 before somebody gave him some good “advice” and talked some sense into him.

If it had been McCain/Lieberman that year the Arizona senator would have lost even worse to Obama and it would have provided Lieberman with the unheard of distinction of losing on the presidential tickets of both parties (hard to remember now but Lieberman was Al Gore’s running mate in the fateful 2000 election).

McCain presumably will now be in Arizona indefinitely and likely won’t be part of any ongoing Republican efforts to hammer out a near-term Obamacare repeal. Whatever was the strategy of Mitch McConnell and the GOP Senate leadership prior to “maverick” McCain’s leave of absence, it didn’t work.

Therefore it’s not surprising Republicans plan to try a new way when moving to pass tax reform. Alexis Simendinger of Real Clear Politics reports, “The reconciliation technique, which depends on passing a fiscal 2018 budget and is laden with rules and protocols that [White House Legislative Affairs Director Marc] Short likened to ‘threading a needle,’ could be bypassed if eight Senate Democrats facing tough re-election bids next year decided to join their Republican colleagues to cut individual and corporate tax rates and eliminate what [Treasury Secretary Steven] Mnuchin described as ‘huge’ deductions.

“If Republicans pried away that many Democrats in tight races, theoretically they could try to come up with 60 votes needed to break a filibuster under Senate rules. Trump has repeatedly called on Senate Republicans to change the chamber’s rules to eliminate the 60-vote threshold needed to end filibusters.”

It’s understandable why President Trump and the Republicans might desire to try the “Democrats will help us this time” route but the new tactic isn’t likely to bear fruit. It doesn’t take a fortune-teller to envision a moment this fall when a potentially wavering so-called “moderate” Democrat senator succumbs to political pressure and casts a deciding vote against “Trump’s tax cut for the wealthy.”

In this realm you also run the risk of the Democrat leadership getting involved and twisting arms around so tightly until they break – and those Democrats will still obey the party establishment.

Looking back on Trump’s first six and a half months in office there has been very little of his or the Republican party’s agenda that’s enjoyed even a token bit of Democrat support. Does anyone truly believe Trump and McConnell can sell one out of every six Democrat obstructionists (I mean senators) on the idea that reforming tax rates is a good idea for everyone?

It seems obvious the only type of proposal that would move any Democrats to help deliver Trump a major legislative victory would be a significant and steep tax rate hike on the wealthy – a.k.a. the job creators of the economy. Trump isn’t likely to give much on his belief that rates need to come down across the board so it’s hard to see exactly where Republicans would pick up the necessary eight votes to beat a filibuster.

Chuck Schumer recently conceded the Democrats themselves were to blame (at least partially) for Trump’s win last November but the Minority Leader’s contrition certainly provides no indication the party leadership is coming around to work with the president on something as politically volatile as tax reform. Democrats use class warfare and demagoguery as their reason for existence. Why would that change now?

Besides, the GOP is still reeling from trying to get all 52 senators on the same page for something other than judicial nominations. In trying to clean up the mess that is Obamacare they’ve exposed deep and personal divisions within their own caucus.

William Murchison wrote at Real Clear Politics, “The means of actually reforming Obamacare actually exist: e.g., block grants to the states for Medicaid. But how are you going to do it, when politics drives the process? Older generations understood that political temptations had to be minimized. Once government turned into a Christmas benefit, doling out brightly wrapped packages right and left, things could only get worse. And so they have -- the Obamacare mess defying cleanup, lest people (generally of ‘progressive’ outlook) commence throwing things at the cleanup crew, insulting them in New York Times editorials and on MSNBC.

“Government health care, we now find, thanks to John McCain and others, is here to stay. That's what government programs mostly do, you know: stay and sit and take on poundage and flab, making you want to reread the Constitution for an older view of sensible balance between security and freedom.”

Well put; too many times Republicans break down over the concept of what’s permissible under our governing charter. The Founding Fathers envisioned a government that does as little as possible other than merely existing, solving disputes between states, conducting foreign relations and generally keeping order.

It’s somewhat like the old saying, “The less you do, the more you do.” Too bad there are so few adherents to the founders’ original wisdom.

In spite of McCain’s borderline malfeasance and treachery, there are also emerging signs that the GOP Senate may try yet again on Obamacare repeal when they return from recess.

Robert King reported in the Washington Examiner, “Some Senate Republicans say they are not abandoning Obamacare repeal, although any progress is likely months away.

“Since the Senate failed last week to pass a ‘skinny’ repeal bill, Senate GOP leadership has sent a clear message it is moving on to tax reform and bipartisan talks for a short-term Obamacare market stabilization bill. But some Republicans are not giving up on the years-long promise of repeal despite questions over whether the GOP conference can reach a consensus.”

Senator Ted Cruz, among others, indicated he thinks it’s still doable to find the votes to push some sort of Obamacare bill over the threshold, though senators concede time is running short (it would have to be passed before the end of September under the current reconciliation rules).

We should applaud Cruz’s and several other Republicans’ optimism that an Obamacare repeal version is out there that can command the necessary votes to pass, but common sense and recent history suggests otherwise.

It certainly won’t happen if more Republican senators look to Democrats for answers to the most vexing political questions of today. John McCain likely won’t be in Washington the next time to sabotage the Republicans’ latest efforts on Obamacare or tax reform, but no doubt many high hurdles remain before the GOP actually gets something done.

Can Republicans achieve real conservative victories? Time will tell.

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